Friday, March 17, 2017

'Tis a bloomin' bonanza in Borrego as flower frenzy takes the town

Mother Nature makes artful bouquets by the thousands on the desert floor of Anza Borrego State Park.
Here, the white blooms of the desert chicory poke up through the lavender of the sand verbena. 
Bruce Keller takes a photographer's aim at Anza Borrego's wildflower mecca.


Wildflowers appear in record numbers bringing flower frenzy to southern California's Anza Borrego desert

 

A veritable sea of yellow awaits as the desert dandelions
blanket the Anza Borrego desert in southern California.


Hiker's proof: shoes are
covered in pollen; we
call it fairy dust.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS


PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER


--




FANS OF FLOWERS, heads up.


Grab your camera, hitch up your hiking shoes and head for the desert near Borrego Springs, California.

Prepare to be showered with the most spectacular showing of spring flowers seen in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park since the early 1990s.
We based at the lovely Casa del Zorro resort in Borrego (more later on this stunning oasis, for it deserves its own separate illustrated story, not to be overshadowed by flower power). 
 THE MANAGER at La Casa, Patrick Sampson, calls it "flower frenzy" and the crowds in this normally peaceful little town bear witness. His popular and classy property has been running at full. Grocery stores are hustling to keep product on the shelves and you may not get your first-choice time at the restaurants.  It's all well worth it.
Arizona lupine, foreground, stretches toward the sky.
Said Teresa, our amiable waitress at the Zorro's Fox Den, "We haven't seen anything like this for years."  At the little market downtown, shelf supplies were sparse as tourists queued up for crackers, sodas and other snacks to keep them nourished for the viewing. 
The ocotillo is just beginning to leaf out with orange blossoms.
WHEN YOU first set eyes on the displays, it's almost as if a florist has visited first -- so artfully do the flowers seem arranged.  It's completely natural, though, he complementary colors and "groupings" of  sand verbena, dune evening primroses with their wide white petals, splashy yellow desert sunflowers, the diminutive desert star, delicate rock daisy, showy hedghog, happy monkey flower, sprawling onyx and checker fiddleneck, which resembles the neck of a violin. Desert lilies beckon closer inspection and the queen of the desert is the prolific bright yellow desert dandelion. 
Roadsides are lined with the beauty, and the 630,000 acres of Anza Borrego are filled with tourists -- more than 20,000 last weekend, in a town of only 1,300 full-time residents. Locals have never seen such traffic, but despite the crowds, it's a giant boost for the economy.  
We joined the frenzy of heads-bowed, camera-toting flower fans and logged 23 varieties with help from the park's excellent and complimentary wildflower guide.
Weekends are of course more crowded, so if you can get there early next week, that's ideal.  Otherwise you may be unable to find lodging or parking in the lots. Prepare for portable bathrooms and a bit of a walk from overflow parking closer to town.
More lupine, in another shade,
and a hitchhiking butterfly.












A visitor solves the car-park problem by enjoying the view from his bike.
The park has a wildflower hotline for information, 760 767-4684. Ask for maps and specific information about the status of the blooming. Consider staying in nearby Julian, a charming town, then driving the 20 miles to Borrego. Go to visitjulian.com
We hope that we don't have to wait another two decades for this wonder. What a marvelous few days we had.
If you miss the Borrego blooms, check out this website for spring flowers near you, including the Mojave, Joshua Tree and other venues: desertusa.com/wildflo/wildupdates 

NEXT UP: Fans of aquariums, we have a great one for you. Birch Aquarium in San Diego is a user-friendly find suitable for all ages. In it, discovery, interaction and education are the bywords. This gem of undersea treasures sparkles with the natural wonders of our oceans, giving special attention to sea life right out the window. The Aquarium also offers a splendid vantage point for viewing the mighty grey whales, now finishing its migration south from Alaska to warmer Baja waters. Remember to explore, learn and live. Catch us each weekend for a novel approach to travel, nature and the lively arts.

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